Increasingly stringent environmental standards continue to put the spotlight on diesel’s environmental performance. At the same time, alternative fuels and a growing interest in electric vehicles are generating headlines. However, diesel’s days as a fuel for commercial vehicles are far from over, although some misconceptions about its performance remain.
It is important to correct
these myths to enable an informed debate about fuel options and environmental
regulation. Clear-cut data put into a well-defined context benefits everyone
involved in the critical dialogue about how to power vehicles in the future. So
what are the key misconceptions that need to be addressed?
MYTH: Diesel has lost
its appeal and popularity.
Recent conversation around
diesel might suggest it has lost its popularity but according to recently
published research, 96% of medium and heavy commercial vehicles (over 3.5t) in
the European Union run on diesel, a figure that will likely come down over time.
The reasons for
diesel’s continuing popularity in the commercial vehicle sector are clear:
compared with other types of fuel it currently has a higher energy content, offers great driving range and
fuel efficiency, stronger low-end torque for towing and hauling, is quick to
refuel and supports good truck engine durability. Diesel units also remain some
of the most efficient combustion engines available. And with the latest
technology, they have become cleaner, too.
In fact, the latest Euro
VI requirements are the most stringent ever. As well as special filters that
significantly reduce particulate matter (PM) emissions, they also feature
technology that converts most of the nitrogen oxide (NOx) from the engine into
harmless nitrogen and water before it leaves the vehicle. A recent study showed
a 93% reduction in NOx emissions for Euro VI diesel hybrid buses compared with
Euro V conventional diesel buses.
MYTH: Alternative fuels
and engines will replace diesel in the near future.
It is true that biodiesel,
natural gas, fuel cells and electricity are all gaining traction. Public
transport is a high-profile example. As of March 2019, there were 3,669 hybrid
buses, 155 electric buses and 10 hydrogen buses operating in London, out of a
total fleet of 9,142. In
addition, the German Federal
Ministry of Transport has recently set up a €300 million fund that will see
electric buses on the streets of 11 of the country’s cities by 2022.
However, in the commercial
vehicle sector alternative fuel options have made less headway, especially in
the long-haul market; in fact, the number of heavy trucks on Europe’s roads is
increasing. According to the European
Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) the number of medium and
heavy duty commercial vehicles registered across the European Union during the
first half of 2019 increased on average by over 16% compared with the same
period in 2018, with Belgium, Germany, France and the UK with increases above the
average. By law, these vehicles employ the
latest engine designs, taking into account the latest Euro VI emission
MYTH: All diesel fuels
are essentially the same. It’s really just a matter of finding the cheapest
There is a belief that all
diesels are the same and price is therefore the most significant criteria for
making a purchasing decision. However, all diesel fuels are not equal. For
example, many bulk diesel deliveries do not contain detergent additives, and
those that do are normally designed to help prevent the formation of deposits
on fuel injectors, which otherwise degrade engine power and fuel economy over
time. Some diesel fuels are optimised to not only keep injectors clean but also
clean up existing deposits. The additional detergency contributes to improved
fuel efficiency and may reduce the need for maintenance. Fuel efficiency is
important for medium and heavy duty commercial vehicles given the significantly
lower miles per gallon consumed compared with light duty vehicles. Given the
high cost of long-haul diesel truck engines and the significant investments
operators make in their fleets, owners should prioritise quality when choosing
fuel, especially if they want to maximise the longevity of their vehicles and
reduce costly maintenance.
Diesel continues to
play a vital commercial role worldwide
Diesel engine and fuel
technology will continue to evolve, as will alternative options. This will
ensure that fleet owners have increasing access to the solutions they need to
meet both commercial and regulatory requirements without compromising
ExxonMobil is collaborating with engine manufacturers to develop fuel
technologies that help meet the current and future needs of diesel engines. Furthermore, ExxonMobil is supporting the Logistics
Emissions Reduction Scheme in the UK, which is working with members to reduce
emissions from freight. 6
However, the bottom line
is that diesel remains critical to the commercial vehicle market – now and into
the future. Fleet owners should therefore work with suppliers that offer
consistently high quality diesel to ensure they get the full benefits of the
latest performance-enhancing formulations.
Real-World Measurement of Hybrid Buses’ Fuel Consumption and Pollutant Emissions
in a Metropolitan Urban Road Network, Energies/MDPI, September 2018
By Dirk Pyatt, EAME Commercial Fuels Marketing Manager
Source: Courier News